Run For Your Precinct is an educational endeavor devoted to the concept that the solution to our nation's most vital political issues lies at the precinct level.

The Preliminary Basics

Let's say you're a Republican.* If you’re like most people, you'd be confused if anyone asked, "Who represents you to the Republican Party?" The question wouldn't seem to make sense. Yet the answer lies at the heart of this issue. And if you think it's your Congressman, then no, that's not correct.

The correct answer is: it's your party precinct delegate.

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Now if you respond to that answer with a puzzled shrug, it's not surprising, because it underscores the problem. We live in a representative democracy where practically no one understands that they are represented to their political party. Nor do they know by who, or why it matters. Yet it's a big part of why so many voters are alienated from the political process. It's this alienation which leads to poor government (deficits, bloated bureaucracies, lousy schools, and all the rest). But that's our purpose here - to shed light on the subject.

Let's begin with the basics. In most states, each county is divided into party precincts. A precinct is a small area, often a few streets, containing anywhere from a dozen to a couple hundred Republican households. Each precinct is represented by one or more delegates. Depending on the state, a delegate might be called your county committeeman or precinct chairman, executive, leader, officer or captain.

This office is filled differently in different places. In some states, it's voted on every two or four years in your party's primary election. In other states, party members can attend a local, county or district meeting, where they can choose to 'run' for their particular precincts. Either way, there's seldom more than one person seeking the position, and often, no one at all. It’s strictly a party position, not a governmental one, and it pays nothing.

Here's the point. These elected precinct men have the sole voting power to organize and control the local, county or district Republican committees. What’s more, they typically have the power to appoint their buddies, colleagues and relatives to fill the empty precinct slots where nobody runs. And these appointees are given full voting rights.

This collection of elected precinct men, combined with the precinct men they appoint, is the actual power base of your area's Republican machine. They, and the executives or officers they elect, ride herd on the party, voting on such things as resolutions, rules, endorsements, and party contributions. More importantly, they usually pick the guys that get the party's nominations for office.

Sure, any registered party member can vote in the primary election. But most of the key choices are made well before the primary ever happens - and they're made by these precinct men. They're the ones that truly shape and govern the party. In effect, these precinct men are the party. For the most part, everyone else is merely left with take-it-or-leave choices on whatever selections they put on the ballot.

Perhaps at this point, you're jumping ahead and wondering if you're qualified to be a precinct man. If you’re an established resident, of good character and reasonably informed, then you’re as qualified as it gets. But let's face it, what you’re more likely thinking is, who has the time for such an office? Well rest assured. It's not that much time. At most, a few evening meetings per year. That’s it. No heavy lifting and little or nothing in way of dues or fees. Occasionally, you might be asked to help with this or that task. But no one will be shocked to hear you say, "Sorry, I can't." And mind you, attendance at every meeting isn't mandatory. Most precinct men skip quite a few.

Essentially, we’re describing an undemanding office, but one with real political impact, particularly on the local level, where everything starts. All the same, the office is generally unsought… except by those who have a vested interest in politics - and they're the ones who are the chief cause of the today's problems.

So this is the first part of the mission of Run For Your Precinct, explaining the concept of the precinct man (but again, you also need to understand about those guys with the vested interests). We advocate a greater political involvement by individuals, particularly at the precinct level. We encourage you to find out who presently represents you and a little bit about him (or her). Was he elected, or appointed? If appointed, does he live in the precinct? If he's someone you feel you can support, then great; ask if he ever needs any help. But if you find yourself unsure about his motivations, then consider running to replace him. If he's an appointee, you'll often find yourself unopposed. If you do face an opponent, then running a campaign isn't hard at all. (Advice on running for the office is offered here.) Typically it costs nothing to run, and if you're in a state where you need to file as a candidate, then it's easy to do. You might have to collect all of five signatures.

Yes, serving as a precinct man and attending a few meetings can sometimes be bothersome - but it's nothing strenuous. It's not like storming Omaha Beach. Look at it this way. How many times have you been aggravated by politics, but didn't know what to do about it? Sure, you may have sent off an email to your Congressman. But did he read it? If you represent your precinct, you'll occasionally be seeing the guy face to face at county meetings, as well as your county commissioners, state senator and representative. And if you so choose, any discussion you might have with any of them can be heard by others. (Having witnesses can be useful.)

Seek a place with voting rights at your party’s table. Serve your nation by serving your neighborhood. You won't need to quit your job or move to Washington, D.C. As they say, think globally, but act locally. Make your party more accountable by making yourself heard. Besides... occasionally it's fun. There's something agreeable about giving an appropriate yank, now and then, to certain chains. Certainly there’d be fewer politicians playing it fast and loose if they had to face, in person, strong criticism from members of their local committees.

The fact is, there’re lots of folks who’ve been fighting the good fight for years. But they need you to pitch in. It's a sure way to help transform the Republican Party and our nation. Run for your precinct.


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* Run For Your Precinct is non-partisan endeavor, in the sense that we're not here to advance one party over the other; we'd like to see them both reform. But in a different sense, we're hyper-partisan, in that we believe far more voters should be aligned and active in one or the other of the two parties. However, since we believe most alienated voters would normally align themselves with the Republican Party, we try to simplify things by speaking mainly in the context of the Republican Party. But practically anything said here about either party applies to both. So feel free to read in one party's name for the other. And if you feel a strong need to be unaligned with any party, then please just bear along.